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Taking the Shipyards to Sundance

Mining Poems or Odes

After graduating from the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow based director and photographer Callum Rice produced his first short film ‘Mining Poems or Odes’ for The Scottish Documentary Institute in 2015.

The film went on to win Best Short at the BAFTA Scotland Awards 2015, and looks set for an exciting start to 2016 as it has been selected to screen at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January and nominated for Best Short Film at February’s BAFTAs.

Before Callum makes his way to Utah to accompany the Sundance screenings of Mining Poems and Odes with Q&A sessions he made some time to talk to us about how the film came about.

The commission for Mining Poems or Odes was through the Bridging The Gap initiative, how did you approach this process?

The Scottish Documentary Institute’s Bridging The Gap initiative, funded by Creative Scotland, allowed me to make my first film Mining Poems or Odes.

The initiative’s theme that year was 'Resilience'. I knew that I wanted my film to be Glasgow based, but I was determined that it would not be a cliché about poverty, misery or crime. I wanted to show the shipyards of the Clyde in a proud light. These were wonderful places of creativity and talent.  

The film celebrates the poetry and process of Robert Fullerton, a former shipyard welder from Govan, who credits his time welding as crucially influential on his writing practice today. Robert no longer works in the shipyards but has vivid memories of them and credits his love of language and books to this part of his life. Many who worked in these yards were capable of extraordinary creativity, people like George Wylie and Billy Connelly credited their experiences in shipbuilding as influential in their later work. Robert is a case in point.

The catalyst for the film was based on one of Robert’s sonnets, Statues; a visceral depiction of a bronze statue in Govan by Viennese sculptor Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm of Scottish marine engineer and shipbuilder John Elder.

I believe shipbuilding is as proud a tradition and part of Scotland’s heritage, as is writing. In Mining Poems or Odes I wanted to draw imaginative parallels between the solitary and reflective existence of Robert’s past experiences and his poetry, both as a miner of metals and of words.Even though the film was based on the experiences of a Clydeside worker, the message is universal.

One of the great challenges was trying to encapsulate this in ten minutes. It forced me to concentrate and distill what I wanted to convey. In Robert’s words: “The Production of the Human Spirit”.

My film crew was small and consisted of graduates of creative Scottish institutions. My Producer was a graduate of Glasgow University, my Cinematographer, and brother, Fraser Rice was a graduate of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The film was edited at Film City in Govan Town Hall, which felt very appropriate to me. It was truly a Clyde-built film.

What inspired and influenced you to get into filmmaking, and into documentaries?

I studied Communication Design at Glasgow School of Art and in my final year I found myself increasingly working with sound and moving image. During this time I volunteered to help director Maurice O'Brien who had been commissioned by the Scottish Documentary Institute on his film Buffalo Dreams. It was a valuable experience for me, and when I became aware of the Bridging the Gap initiative.

Mining Poems or Odes  

Which directors inspire you?

I admire filmmakers like Alan Clarke, Jan Švankmajer, Patrick Keiller, Derek Jarman and Jacques Tati.

Their fastidious attention to detail, non-linear story telling and mise en scène inspire me. I particularly admire Alan Clarke’s ability to blur the lines between fiction and documentary and Jacques Tati’s visual narrative that transcends the use of dialogue. However I also find inspiration in the extensive collection of films and documentaries on The Scottish Screen Archive from the National Library of Scotland. The great achievements, as well as the architecture and communities we have lost are documented here. The new BFI Mediateque at Bridgeton Library has become an invaluable resource for me. It is a privilege to have such an extensive resource on our doorstep.

Mining Poems or Odes still 

Whats next for you?

The success of Mining Poems or Odes has given me the impetus to make my next film. I'm absolutely delighted to have been nominated for best British Short in this year’s BAFTAs. I’m very grateful to Creative Scotland, The Scottish Documentary Institute and my talented team who helped make it happen.

Still from Mining Poems or Odes

Mining Poems or Odes has been nominated for Best Short Film at this year’s BAFTAs in February, as well as being selected to play in Shorts Program 5 at the Sundance Film Festival 2016.

The first screening will take place on: 

  • Saturday, January 23, 9:30 p.m. Redstone Cinema 1, Park City

This will be followed by additional screenings on the following dates:

  • Sunday, January 24, 2:30 p.m. Prospector Square Theatre, Park City
  • Thursday, January 28, 6:00 p.m. Broadway Centre Cinema 6, SLC
  • Friday, January 29, 3:00 p.m. Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City

Each screening will be accompanied with a Q&A with Callum Rice, moderated by a Sundance Film Festival Programmer.

About Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap is one of the leading documentary new talent initiatives in the UK, offering intensive training, a cash budget and chances of international distribution for short documentary films made by up-and-coming Scottish talents.